Water conservation is a pillar of environmentalism and critical for protecting the Earth’s dwindling fresh water supply. We’ve featured desalination solutions that are aiding in this effort, but today we’re focusing on localized water treatment as a path to water security.
Startup Epic CleanTec is pioneering local water treatment technologies and soon, San Francisco’s new high-rises will be pilot sites for their on-site water treatment machines, designed to purify and reuse all the wastewater that would otherwise be flushed away into the local sewage system.
Epic CleanTec CEO Aaron Tartakovsky says that he founded the startup in 2015 to show people “that wastewater really just consists of water, it consists of energy, it consists of nutrients, and it consists of organic matter,” all of which can be separated from the wastewater and repurposed.
The company’s technology was created as a response to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. The challenge calls on engineers to innovate a safe, cheap toilet that could be used by the vast number of people around the world who don’t have access to proper sewage or plumbing.
Tartakovsky and his father, whose background is also in engineering, realized that revolutionizing the toilet wasn’t only good for underprivileged communities, but can also be valuable in drought-stricken regions such as California.
Epic CleanTec’s clever system uses a screen to separate solids from liquids, and then the water is treated to such high standards that it could be used in laundry machines or even for drinking (although according to current regulations, this is not yet permitted). Right now, repurposed wastewater can only be used for non-potable purposes such as flushing or in cooling towers, but they are hopeful the potential uses will be expanded as the technology is improved and scaled up. Even the solid waste gets treated (separately, of course) and becomes a product to add to garden soil.
Epic CleanTec treats solid waste by using a powerful chemical reaction that results in a product that is full of carbon and potassium, making it ideal for soil blends. At the moment, the treated waste is taken back to the company’s own demonstration garden, but eventually, it can help reduce the use of fertilizer in city parks or farms.
The water treatment system uses less energy than other competitive technology. It also costs less and is its system is more compact. Even though Tartakovsky had California in mind when developing the technology, it can be useful anywhere. Epic CleanTec is hoping to launch a philanthropic arm in the future that will help solve sanitation issues across the US and abroad.